If you had told Michael Dickson when he enrolled at the University of Texas in 2015 that he would one day become an NFL Pro Bowler, he probably wouldn't have believed you. And that's not because the Seahawks punter didn't have confidence in his ability when he moved to Austin, Texas from Australia, but rather because he was so new to American football that he didn't know what the Pro Bowl was.
"I probably wouldn't have known what the Pro Bowl was back then," he said. "… One of my goals coming in here was to have high standards for myself. Having a great coach and a great punt team running down covering my punts has definitely helped me achieve that."
But 14 games into a rookie season in which he is leading the NFL in punting average (48.9 yards-per-punt) and net average (44.2), Dickson is indeed the NFC's punter for the 2019 Pro Bowl, making him the first rookie punter to earn that honor since 1985 when the Los Angeles Rams' Dale Hatcher was selected.
The Seahawks had a high opinion of Dickson, the 2017 winner of the Ray Guy Award, given to college football's top punter, which is why they traded up to select him in the fifth round of this year's draft. Even so, Dickson has exceed the high expectations the Seahawks had for him coming into the year.
"He really has," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I couldn't have imagined that he could be so consistent throughout the season in his rookie year. He had a great game (against the 49ers) with the weather, the wind and a little bit of rain last week too—the turf and all that. I just couldn't have imagined he could be that consistently good. We're thrilled about the pick and thrilled about having that guy on our team. He's got a great attitude about it, he's handled everything well. Really proud of him."
Carroll mentioned the word consistency when talking about Dickson's play this season, but that's also a good word to describe the entire career of linebacker Bobby Wagner, who was named to the Pro Bowl for a fifth straight season.
"He's done it again in the same fashion, but just a little bit better," Carroll said. "He just seems like he's a little bit better. He's made more big plays, more significant plays that have affected the game than ever. The thing I love about looking at great players is do they show that ability to do it year after year after year. I think that's what greatness is all about. Bobby's put together a resume of really Hall of Fame stuff. This is the kind of guy that gets there someday. To add on to that, the leadership that he's brought and the direction and focus that he's brought on a regular basis—really, he has been a perfect Seahawk throughout the whole time he's been here. We're just very lucky to have him."
For Wagner, making the Pro Bowl is still special even if it has become almost routine for him at this point.
"You know, it's humbling," he said. "I pride myself on consistency, and to be voted amongst your peers and the fans as one of those people who are consistent is amazing. I've got to credit to my teammates and coaching staff and the guys up front that do their best to make sure I don't get touched and allow me to run around and make plays. Without those guys, I wouldn't be making the plays that I've been making. Even though this is an individual award, however I can share with my teammates, I'll find a way."
Wagner was a bit surprised to be the only member of Seattle's defense to earn Pro Bowl honors, especially since defensive end Frank Clark has a career-high 12 sacks and defensive tackle Jarran Reed has 8.5, a very impressive number for an interior linemen and also a career-high.
"I am a little surprised," he said. "I thought Frank and J-Reed and a bunch of the other guys should've made it, I do think it's kind of weird that we cut the voting off with like two or three more weeks to spare, you know… I think it's something that will make everybody hungry and something that we can kind of grow from."
The Seahawks have no Pro-Bowl selections on offense despite leading the NFL in rushing and having a quarterback who is tied for the NFC lead in touchdown passes and who is second in the conference in passer rating. The Seahawks did get three alternates on offense, quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Chris Carson and guard J.R. Sweezy, but Carroll would have liked to have seen left tackle Duane Brown get some recognition.
"I don't know how anybody had a better year than Duane Brown did," Carroll said. "I don't know how that would happen. He's been there before, but the league is looking at the throwing game, maybe. Meanwhile, we're running it."
Asked about Wilson missing out despite having one of the best seasons of his career, Carroll said, "We know how good he is."
Practice photos from the Seahawks' Wednesday workout at Virginia Mason Athletic Center ahead of Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.